Day 200: Send a message in a bottle

I was awoken by bright sunlight on my face and a pressing need to urinate. I stumbled to the bathroom, knocking over bottles with each step, the noise like rubber mallets on my skull.

It was sunny outside; flowers were starting to bloom in the yard outside my cottage. Flowers? Wasn’t everything covered in snow just a few days ago? What month is this? It wasn’t important, at least right then: I needed food, water, aspirin, maybe a small glass of wine…

The quarter-gallon of milk in the refrigerator was a solid, and the bread on the counter was moldy. Breakfast was eggs and bacon—things that never go bad, right? While I was cooking, I reached for a bottle of wine—just a little, to tide me over until I could make coffee——there was no wine in the bottle, but there was a piece of paper. Paper? How the fuck did that get in there?

I scanned the kitchen: bottles everywhere, all of them with scraps of paper inside. I finally spotted an unopened bottle—a cheap, vile red, but it was better than nothing—poured a glass, drank it with my breakfast, and tried to reconstruct the last few months.

It was a blank.

I was sitting back in my chair after breakfast, drinking a third glass of wine, casting my eyes contemplatively around the cottage—most of which was one large room—when it finally occurred to me that, perhaps, the pieces of paper in the bottles might be messages from my excessively-drunk self to my mostly-sober self.

I grabbed the nearest bottle—and then realized that I was going to have to break the bottle to get the paper out. All of the bottles: dozens, maybe hundreds of bottles, all with scraps of paper in them. What to do with all that glass?

I grabbed an armful and carried them outside, to the fire-pit. I found a few logs, threw them into the pit, and broke the first bottle on one of them. The writing on the paper—well, it wasn’t really “writing,” it was indecipherable squiggling. I tried a second, a third, a fourth: all the same. A word was decipherable on the fifth scrap: “cold.” On the sixth was something that looked like “found corkscrew.”

I went in for more bottles.

Several dozen broken bottles later, all I had was a small handful of words: “wine,” “bread,” “piss,” “snow”—and a lot of squiggles. I was ready to give up, to throw the rest of the bottles in the pile and burn the lot of them—to consign the rest of the scraps to destruction, unread.

I couldn’t do it, though: surely the messages from the early days of the lost months would be readable, at least mostly? I had to keep breaking bottles. And so I did.

There were, I think, a dozen dozens. I’m amazed that I didn’t cut my hands more than I did, breaking all that glass. It wasn’t worth it: the squiggles got harder to read, not easier—some were just lines across the paper, like small children make.

On the last scrap—although who knows when I drew it, because I didn’t date any of them—as if I would have known what the date was——I didn’t know then, mostly-sober and smashing bottles…

…on the last scrap was a drawing of male genitalia. A hairy cock and balls.

I burned the cottage down, walked down the mountain back into civilization, and never drank again.


Day 212: Put the Book under your pillow, and record your dreams.

I have this thing: I don’t remember my dreams.

I’m sure I have dreams, and they’re probably interesting; there are plenty of times when, in that groggy state between waking and sleeping, my conscious mind watches the last pieces of some dream or other drift away, and they always seem awesome in that moment, but then they’re lost forever.

If I didn’t like sleep so much, then I could probably make myself jot down notes in the middle of the night about whatever odd dream I’d just woken up from — I’ve even kept a pen and paper on my bedside table in the past — but really, I’m lazy and lack any sort of self-discipline. So most of my dreams are lost forever: most, but not all, because every once in a while one sticks with me long enough that my conscious mind can process and reconstruct it.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those dreams that stuck with me.

In it, I was in an elevator — one that was fairly large and actually kind of nice, as elevators go — carpet that had been recently cleaned, nice wood panelling, good lighting —— and I think there were a few people in the elevator with me, but I don’t remember who. So far, pretty exciting, am I right? Nothing more exciting than being in an elevator.

Three of the elevator’s walls — minus the door, of course — were lined with urinals, maybe three or five per wall: an odd number, anyway. The first thing I remember happening is the center urinal on the back wall exploding: well, it didn’t explode in a blaze of glory and porcelain, or I don’t think it did, but the metal hardware at the top burst, and water geysered out, and it was less than pleasant for all involved. At least it was water, and not piss.

We opened the doors, and exited the elevator. I think the water must have stopped, though, because then I was sweeping the water out of the elevator and into the gap between the elevator and whatever room the elevator had stopped at. I looked down into the gap, and caught a glimpse of some sort of subterranean cavern below us — and then I saw giant lobsters scuttling back and forth in that cavern, lobsters big enough that they could have eaten me.

Then I woke up, got up to piss, and tried not to think about the giant lobsters.

Day 202: Pregnancy test day.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, July 21.

The Book wants me to piss on it. Seriously. To see if I’m pregnant.

When I was in high school, one of the local (and by “local” I mean “Dallas”) radio stations — 97.1 “The Eagle” — had a pair of late-evening DJs: Kramer and Twitch.

I didn’t listen to the Eagle much — it was a “hard rock” station at the time, and that wasn’t/isn’t really my thing — but I listened to Kramer and Twitch’s show at least once, because I remember a prank call they made on the air.

I don’t remember all the details — I remember almost none of the details, actually, about the call or about where I was driving from or towards at the time — so I can’t give the joke a proper setup. The punchline, though, is that they got some random dude to piss all over his dining room table.

Seriously. I think they pretended to be from the CDC, or some such place, and convinced the guy that he might have contracted some disease or other; they needed him to piss on a flat surface, like a table, I think so that they could ask him questions about color and consistency? Like I said, the details are fuzzy. The punchline, though, that’s gold.

I don’t know why that bit of radio tomfoolery has stuck with me so long — crazy dudes call a guy on the air and talk him into pissing all over his own table — but it has, and it was the first thing that came into my mind when I saw this task. So I knew, you see, that when someone or something asks you to piss in a nonstandard place — a place you’re not comfortable pissing — you’re probably being trolled.

I pissed on the Book anyway, obviously. Why the hell not?

Day 155: Confess to a priest.

Man, I haven’t been to confession in … hmmm … well, it’s been over a decade.

I was raised Roman Catholic, and confession is sort of their thing. I know I went at least once, before First Communion — a requirement — and my guess is that I was also required to go before Confirmation. It’s possible that I went a third time, voluntarily, but I don’t remember.

Halfway through high school, I started going to a more-or-less Anglican church. I went to confession there a few times, and it was, on the whole, a less-than-helpful experience. I haven’t ever gone back.

I don’t like confession. I dislike it because it’s about one thing, and one thing only: power. The priest has all of it, and the confessor none. The priest hears, judges, prescribes penance; the confessor does (or not) the penance assigned. One commands, the other obeys.

This is a cynical view, I know, and I realize that not all — maybe not even most — particular instances of confession do not embody this power differential. It’s always present, though, in the structure of the sacrament. The confessional derives its power from guilt, shame, and fear, which work to make the confessor more abject and powerless and the priest — the structure — therefore more powerful.

Confession is not for the confessor; it exists to reinforce the structure. That’s why it doesn’t work. I, at least — and I’m betting I’m far from alone in this — always confessed the same thing at confession, and no amount of post-confession Hail Marys did anything to help me quit doing the thing in question (urinating on squirrels, if you must know). If I were to indulge my cynicism, I’d say that confession is like a drug dealer running a rehab clinic: you’re not going to come out clean, because that would be bad for business. They want you to stay hooked. (As an aside: you should all read PKD‘s novel A Scanner Darkly, and/or see the film.)

I won’t indulge cynicism that far, though. I’ll content myself with pointing out that priests are not counselors; they’re trained to hear you talk about pissing on squirrels, but not to help you not piss on them: which is unfortunate, because people need the latter much more than they need the former.

I eventually got help with my squirrel-pissing problem, and several other things that turned out to be related, because I went to a fucking professional — fucking being an intensifier, and not an indicator of her area of specialization — counselor (therapist, psychiatrist, whatever). It worked, because she knew what she was doing, and because we were equals: the sessions were structured as conversations, and not as depositions.

Of course, I still piss on the occasional squirrel, I just don’t feel bad about it afterward. Make of that what you will.

Day 115: Above the law day.

The Book provides an “Above the law” pass for today, which I’m supposed to use to violate the law of my choice.

Before I could decide on what law to break, though, I had to decide what category of law the individual law should come from. Probably the Book had civil or criminal law in mind: shoplifting (there actually is a shoplifting day later in the year), urinating in public, tax fraud, speeding (which I do anyway), &c. I have a strict don’t-get-arrested-or-fined policy, though, and choosing a law which the breaking of might get me arrested or fined violates that policy, so I didn’t choose one of those.

There are ethical and moral laws that I could violate violate all the time. The problem here is one of authority. For example: Mormons don’t drink coffee, but I’m not a Mormon, and so my drinking coffee doesn’t break that law. This is a problem because my personal ethical and moral code doesn’t prohibit any of the things that I like to do, and so I’d have to do something I find distasteful in order to violate it – which is not the case with civil/criminal laws (I like pissing outside, dammit).

I wanted a challenge. I wanted to violate a natural law, a fundamental principle of the universe: I wanted to keep a fixed quantity of an ideal gas at a constant pressure while increasing the volume; I wanted to change the speed of light; I wanted to make dU not equal to δS minus δW; I wanted to know the position and momentum of a subatomic particle, at the same time.

I eventually decided to be in two places at once – which is totally impossible, you guys. So, while my father and I wrestled my old, leaky hot water heater out of its place, and wrangled my new, bigger-but-not-as-heavy-because-the-old-one-was-inexplicably-still-full-of-water hot water heater into the recently vacated place where such things go —— I was also getting shit-faced (at four in the morning!) in Moscow. The real one, the one in Russia, not any of these other Moscows. If you don’t believe me, well, you’re wrong this time.

You may wonder how I managed to pull this off, seeing as being in two places at once is against the law. Well, let me tell you: Nature tried to stop me. Told me I was violating the laws of physics. So I showed Nature my “break any law you want” card, told her to fuck off, and went on my ways.

Karma caught up with me, though: I realized after Lowe’s had closed that I was going to have to replace a hose I hadn’t counted on replacing. I should’ve known I was going to have to replace it; if I hadn’t been getting really drunk halfway around the world at the same time, I think I might have noticed. But I didn’t, and I get to go back to Lowe’s in the morning – four trips and $500, all told, to replace the damned hot water heater – and tonight is one more night we don’t have hot water.

I’m glad I took that shower in Russia.

Day 114: Tattoo a banana.

As with so many things, choosing the right tool was imperative.

I used a chopstick. I worked alright, although I had to re-draw (re-bruise?) a fair amount of the design because it didn’t make a deep enough impression the first time (insert obligatory “that’s what she said” here). A toothpick might’ve worked better, but it probably would have required several, as toothpicks are much easier to break than chopsticks.

Here’s the result:

Not the best banana tattoo ever, but not bad for a first try.

I don’t know why I’m trying this, though. I drew on a banana with a chopstick; big fucking deal. What do I do with it now? —Don’t answer that. I ate it, that’s what. The tattooing didn’t seem to have affected the flavor; it was a day or two shy of ripe, but still tasty enough. I mean, it wasn’t tasty like an apple banana or bananas foster – which I’m actually sort of neutral on, so maybe that’s a bad example – but other tasty banana things aren’t coming to mind —— anyway, the point is that the banana was edible, and mildly satisfying.

Banana tattoos strike me as being much like latte art, in that both are things people do to food to make it look pretty before they consume it. I see no point, really: coffee turns to piss no matter what it looked like before I drank it, and bananas to shit in like manner. Some people disagree, of course, which is why there are sites like the Tattooed Banana – you can’t make this shit up – but I can, which is why you read this blog, right? – except the Tattooed Banana is, amazingly, legit – though not so legit that it can’t quit for long periods of time before updating with more banana-art pictures —— where was I? Oh, right: some people like unnecessarily pretty food, and make websites about their weird pretty-food fetishes.

As an aside: “pretty food fetish” is not a safe google search.

I think you should all tattoo a banana, at least once, because then you’ll get to experience that moment where you say to yourself: “Self, you’re drawing on a banana with a chopstick. What the fuck are we doing that for? I don’t know. I’m going to keep doing it, though, and then I’m going to take a picture of this banana and put it on the internet, and then I’m going to eat the damned thing. …the banana, not the internet.” That’s a moment everyone should get to experience.

Also, the other side of my banana says “bullshit.” Just so you know.

Day 108: Today, graffiti [something].

I’m starting to think that the goal of this Book is to change my life by getting me arrested.

Fortunately, the Book is not expecting good graffiti – which is good, because I’m no Banksy – in fact, it stipulates illegibility, hastily-scribbled-ness, and monochromaticity, and it allows for the truly timid to use chalk instead of spray-paint.

What was I going to graffiti, though? Bathroom stalls are a popular target – and, at least on my campus, one runs across the occasional philosophical-discussion-in-graffiti in a bathroom – but that’s always seemed a bit tacky to me.

Boxcars are a popular target, and there’s a spur of railroad track near our house that’s used to park boxcars for a week or ten days at a time – or, rather, it used to be used for that, but it’s been mostly empty since the economy went down the toilet. That would have been perfect, because the track runs through a small wooded area, and I’d have been able to “tag up” those boxcars at a nice, leisurely pace.

Billboards, street signs, the sides of buildings, manhole covers, water towers, the Berlin Wall – all too exposed for my taste, especially because I’m not going to do this at three a.m. when nobody would notice me, because three a.m. is one of the few hours at which I am always – always – well, almost always – asleep.

I thought about making random doodles in books at the library – things like this – but I just can’t bring myself to write in library books. If I’d had time, I’d have gone to Half Price and doodled in books there – which is totally different, because then the doodle is like a gift to whoever buys the book. But I didn’t have time – and I don’t really have the money for an excursion to HPB at the moment, either, and it’s extremely difficult for me to go to a used-book store and not buy anything. Next time I go, though, I’m totally doing it.

In the end, I left this – which is monochromatic, sure, but also legible, and not that scribbly, and in ballpoint pen, because that’s what I had on me – in a location that will remain unidentified.

Also, I had a piss there, after I was done writing – because why not?